Canada’s social architecture is showing its age. Many core programs and policies designed in the 1960s and 1970s have started to falter. Drawn at a time when there were fewer women in the paid workforce and when someone with a high school education could get a stable well-paying job with benefits, they no longer reflect today’s high rates of part-time work and fewer jobs with pensions and benefits.
Over the years, the safety net stitched together for a different era has become an intricate web, difficult to navigate and weak at places. While warnings about inadequacies in the system have been flagged by various think tanks, there has been no concerted action to renew Canada’s social safety net until now.
Researchers from four such institutions – the Mowat Centre, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity and the Institute for Research on Public Policy – have banded together to launch social-architecture.ca.
Over the next two months this resource will highlight a series of short, issue-specific research reports by the partners to pressure-test the various weak links in Canada’s social safety net. “Changing patterns in the workplace are leaving gaps in the social safety net that could not have been predicted when we last redesigned our programs, ” says Noah Zon, Project Director and a Practice Lead at the Mowat Centre.
“Canada’s social architecture has also failed to respond to other major social policy challenges that have emerged as significant concerns for Canadians, ” says Sunil Johal, a co-author and the Policy Director of the Mowat Centre. “For example, there is very little support available for the 28 per cent of Canadians who act as caregivers for family members or friends with long-term health or disability needs. The increasing use of drugs in medical treatment presents a significant financial barrier to care for Canadians that don’t have coverage.”
Each paper will introduce the issue, examine what will drive change and present both stop-gap and transformative policy options for renewal. The first five have been released. The main report outlines the changes in the last half century and the ways they have put strains on the social system. The others examine caregivers, housing, skills training and disability supports.